Should doctors be forced to kill? (Wesley J. Smith)

Wesley J. Smith

Fifty years ago, doctors would have been excoriated professionally for assisting a patient’s suicide or performing a non-therapeutic abortion. After all, the Hippocratic Oath proscribed both practices, while the laws of most states made them felonies.

My, how times have changed. Today, abortion is a national constitutional right, and two states have passed laws legalizing doctor-prescribed death. Meanwhile, destroying human embryos may become the basis for cellular medical treatments and people diagnosed with a persistent vegetative state could, one day, be killed for their organs—a proposal often made to alleviate the organ shortage in some of the world’s most notable bioethics and medical journals.

With life-taking procedures threatening to become as much a part of medicine as life-saving techniques, a cogent question arises: What about the rights of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who believe in traditional Hippocratic ethics? Increasingly those who do are castigated as interfering with “patient rights.” Indeed, medical professionals may one day be forced to choose between their careers and their morals.

Actually, that day has already arrived in some parts of the world. For example, the state of Victoria, Australia, requires all doctors to either perform abortions or be complicit in the pregnancy termination by forcing morally objecting doctors to refer their abortion-seeking patients to doctors they know will do the deed. That requirement has already impacted the lives of some pro-life physicians. When I toured Australia speaking against legalizing euthanasia in July 2010, I met several who moved away from their homes in Victoria solely to avoid being forced to choose between their morality and their professions. Read entire article.

[Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, a consultant to the Patient’s Rights Council, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

This article was originally published at The Daily Caller (Dec. 16, 2011) and is here reproduced by kind permission of the author.

Mr. Smith’s blog, Secondhand Smoke has been relocated to the blog pages on First Things web site.]